Geek is as geek does.

Available for purchase at ThinkGeek.com -- though, in my case, it really should be in the plural.

I’ve recently discovered a funny thing about me:

I’m less a geek, than I am a geek of geek culture.

It’s true that I’ve hit a few of the geek high points all on my own: I’m a life-long fan of the original three Star Wars films, and have nothing but disdain for the latter three; I’ve been watching Trek since the original series was first in re-runs (even I was a little too young when it first hit the airwaves); I’ve been known to watch all three LOTR films on consecutive evenings (extended cuts!); and I recently become a bona-fide Browncoat (aka: stupid-big fan of Firefly). I even have genuine Dr. Horrible cred, having watched it online almost immediately upon its release. Moreover, I’m a certified egg-head, and do things like read history because I want to and get deeply into the minutiae of history that particularly grabs me. So yeah. On some levels, I really am a geek.

But on a lot of other levels, I’m a complete dilettante. I don’t game (online or with poly dice) and never have (unless you count that one game of Angry Birds & a few visits to the arcade in the 80s); I don’t watch Dr. Who; I still haven’t read the Hitchhiker’s Guide. I intend to remedy that last sooner rather than later — especially now that even the boy is quoting lines at me — but I have no interest in either of the former. I don’t have any idea who’s Marvel and who’s DC, I didn’t much enjoy the actual source material for the LOTR films (though I did finally force myself to finish reading them), and I have no intention of ever reading any George RR Martin (I already know too many unsavory spoilers – why walk into that?)

But I love enthusiasm that vibrates in the very bones of the enthusiast. I love wild imaginations and thundering humanity. I love smart people, and especially smart people who really enjoy being smart. And I love hearing people talk about language and words and plots and narratives and what-is-canon.

So of course I love geek culture. After all being a geek — of any kind — is essentially about having ill-disguised, hugely enjoyable (and occasionally excruciating) enthusiasms. It’s about hatching plans in December 2011 to attend the midnight show of The Hobbit on the day it’s released in December 2012 (as I am); it’s about making elaborate plans for just which costumes you’re going to want to make for that event (not me, but my Internet pal kiranmartin [also known in these parts as caoil]). It’s about having opinions about each of the successive Doctors, and indeed, individual episodes in each Doctor’s arc. It’s about being able to describe yourself using Dungeons and Dragons terminology, and actually meaning it. It’s about loving something so much that you are willing to go outside the bounds of normative behavior to express that love, and more often than not, it demands a native intelligence that simply cannot let plot inconsistencies and fucking-long pod races slide (me again).

So I find myself following conversations about games and gaming culture (particuarly at my friend K. Cox’s place, because I also love people who know how to write), developing opinions about how women are presented in comics (it’s bad, man), and trading geek culture epehmera with my buddy anibundel (to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for being among those who hounded me into my late Browncoat-dom). It’s why I love ThinkGeek.com, why I encouraged the boy to read Hitchhikers in the first place, and why just the other day, I found myself watching a show called The Nerdist, despite only catching about half the references — not to mention why I found myself annoyed (despite host Chad Chris Hardwick’s entirely charming presence) with the yawning chasm where the women should have been (“but they mentioned Felicia Day!” I can already hear someone protesting, to which I can only reply: “Right! Only after insulting four hugely talented women musicians, and in the most overtly sexual terms possible! And anyway, one mention of one women isn’t really enough, is it, for the love of God?”). (Please note update, in comments – my second reply to Alison. Squee! Chad Chris Hardwick got in touch directly via the Twitters to apologize!) 

So rock on my geeks! I less-than-three you from the bottom of my less-than-three, and I am so grateful to be allowed into the room now and then. I may not be as great a mind as any of you on any of this, but I will get the  snacks and help you find those buttons you need for your Hobbit shirt. Because you’re awesome. And you make my days much, much brighter.

“Like a girl” – yes, again.

Maj. Heather "Lucky" Penney

I thought about the following (first posted in November, then re-upped in March) when I learned of a hurricane hunter (yes, that’s a real job) in the US Air Force Reserve named Capt. Nicole Mitchell. She flew back and forth and back and forth through Hurricane Irene a couple of weeks ago, in order to gather data as the storm was unfolding.

Then I thought about it again in the lead-up to the 9/11 anniversary, when I learned of then-Lt. (now Maj.) Heather “Lucky” Penney, one of the two F-16 pilots who had taken to the sky that morning in order to bring down Flight 93 — by ramming their own planes into it. Which is to say: Before the Flight 93 passengers sacrificed their lives so that the terrorists’ mission would fail, Lt. Penney and her commander were offering up their own.

A third plane hit the Pentagon, and almost at once came word that a fourth plane could be on the way, maybe more. The jets would be armed within an hour, but somebody had to fly now, weapons or no weapons.

“Lucky, you’re coming with me,” barked Col. Marc Sasseville.

They were gearing up in the pre-flight life-support area when Sasseville, struggling into his flight suit, met her eye.

“I’m going to go for the cockpit,” Sasseville said.

She replied without hesitating.

“I’ll take the tail.”

So. The next time someone says “like a girl” to me, I think I might counter with “oh, you mean like an F-16 pilot willing to sacrifice her life in defense of her country?” And the next time some clothing company sells dreck like this (as Forever 21 is this fall, if they haven’t yet responded to numerous requests that they stop)

I think I’ll sneak out in the dark of night and cover their mannikins, guerrilla-style, with truth like this

because pilots are badass, and badass girls use their brains.

…like a girl.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately, for reasons I’m not entirely clear on, about the ways we use words that mean “female human” to insult each other.

There’s “scream like a little girl,” of course, which, you know — ok. Little girls are high-pitched. It’s meant as an insult, but there’s some grain of reality to be found in it. Perhaps I will someday “scream like a linebacker” or “like a South Pacific Islander.” Or something.

But once you get past “scream,” there’s:

  1. Throw like a girl.
  2. Run like a girl.
  3. Hit like a girl.

Not to mention:

  1. Pussy out.
  2. Be a pussy.
  3. Be a little bitch.
  4. Be X’s bitch.

And so on.

In the largest, broadest sense, I believe that these kinds of insults hurt us all, male and female alike. The recent bullying-related suicides of several gay-or-maybe-gay boys have their roots deeply buried in our fear of males behaving in anything but a society-approved-manly fashion. Witness the clear discomfort experienced by adults when five year old boys choose to wear girls’ clothing.

Witness that, and then think about women in pants suits, or girls in jeans. When women adopt and co-opt a traditionally male form of dress, we are empowering ourselves. When men adopt and co-opt a traditionally female form of dress — they get beat up. Because we do not value women as we value men, and we are frightened when men choose to give up the prerogatives of their gender. So, yes, everyone suffers when we continue to maintain and perpetuate misogyny.

But women and girls suffer more. Because we are the ones you shouldn’t be like.

I’ve known this for years, of course. I’m not new to noticing misogyny. I’m not new to feeling its sting and pushing at its edges. But it’s suddenly struck me how powerfully we telegraph our contempt for women merely by opening our mouths and starting to talk.

You throw like a girl. Don’t pussy out on me, bro! I’m gonna make that job my bitch! Close your eyes for a moment, and substitute any other person-naming noun/pejorative for the words “girl,” “pussy,” and “bitch.”

You throw like an Asian. Don’t Hymie out on me, bro! I’m gonna make that job my nigger!

Suddenly, the mind reels a bit.

Good lord, like most non-racist white people, I had a hard time just typing the n-word — but absolutely stand-up folks, men and women alike, without an otherwise bigoted bone in their bodies, will insult each other with words that describe me and my body, with nary a second thought. They will do it loudly, among friends, in print, on television, in movies. It’s just, you know: The way we talk.

But I cannot help but believe that we hear these things, we women and girls, we hear them, and we steep in them, and they go in and down and twist and burrow into us, and they damage us. They leave vapor trails in our thoughts and scars on our hearts. They tell us, day in and day out, that we are weak, we are not worthy, our bodies are the stuff of mockery.

When you’re someone’s bitch? You’re under their violently-wrested control. When you’re a pussy? You’re untrustworthy. When you’re a girl? You are just plain weak.

And who the fuck would want to be any of that?